Police ordered to provide data on DSA related cases within 20 days.
The Information Commission of Bangladesh has backed the Right to Information (RTI) Act claim against Bangladesh Police by human rights defender and campaigner Saad Hammadi after nine months of legal battles.
A bench of the Information Commission led by Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Martuza Ahmed yesterday ordered police to provide the information sought by the complainant within 20 days.
Hammadi, who works for Amnesty International’s South Asia office in Sri Lanka, on June 7 last year sought information about the number of cases filed, number of people accused and number of people arrested under the Digital Security Act since the law was introduced, and the monthly breakdown of the same information between January and May of 2021.
As the designated officer did not provide the information within 30 working days as stipulated under Sections 9(1) and 9(2) of the RTI Act, Hammadi filed an appeal with the inspector general of Bangladesh Police.
Despite a legal stipulation to dispose of an appeal within 15 days of application, Saad Hammadi did not receive any response and therefore filed a complaint with the Information Commission of Bangladesh on August 10, 2021.
CIC Martuza Ahmed told Dhaka Tribune that everyone has the right to receive information.
“We have delivered the verdict to provide the information to the complainant,” he added.
Defence counsel Barrister Taiful Seraj said: “We have submitted our observation and also the report the court wanted. After hearing from the two parties and taking all the documents into cognizance, they provided the verdict.”
When asked what the next step would be, he said a course of action would be decided after consultation with the police authorities.
Saad Hammadi expressed his satisfaction with the verdict, although he lamented the nine-month delay due to legal proceedings.
“Anyone would feel harassed and intimidated by the way I was labelled as anti-state by the state lawyer simply for seeking information. I feel that the Information Commission’s verdict in my case has set an example for ensuring people’s right to information,” he said.
“The verdict also sends a clear message to state agencies that they need to ensure transparency and accountability in their functions,” the Amnesty International official added.
“I hope that police will not delay any further in providing me with the information that I requested for,” he further said.
Barrister Taiful on January 11, after attending the first hearing in the case, told Dhaka Tribune the bench had been informed that the information Saad had requested was highly sensitive and his inquiry might have ulterior motives.
The commission had initially decided to pronounce its verdict on February 2, but the date was deferred twice.
The second time the verdict was deferred, on February 22, the Information Commission bench ordered police to verify the citizenship and information of Hammadi and submit a report within 10 days.
Article 4 of Chapter 2 of the RTI Act says: “Subject to the provisions of this act, every citizen shall have the right to information from the authority, and the authority shall, on demand from a citizen, be bound to provide him with the information.”
Amnesty International has been criticising the Digital Security Act since its inception in 2018, claiming the law poses a severe risk to freedom of expression.
Outrage over the DSA act grew after the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed at Kashimpur jail in Gazipur on February 25, 2021.
In March last year, Law Minister Anisul Huq admitted that there were some flaws in the DSA and that it would likely be revised. However, there have been no more developments since then.
Source: Dhaka Tribune